Permits ~ U.S. States

Introduction: important notice

The Ornithological Council is pleased to provide ornithologists with summaries of state permitting information. The information for each state can be found in the table below but please read this preliminary information first, as it applies to all states.

Every attempt will be made to keep this information up-to-date, but compiling this information is a very time-consuming process and we may not always have the most recent information. For that reason, we (1) have provided contact information for each state permitting office in the general information document and (2) ask that you notify us if you find information that is not current.

We have attempted to provide accurate information about state requirements for permits for banding and other research activities. In some cases, the statute, regulation, written policies, or the application forms and the instructions for the application forms leave no doubt. Where that was not the case, we have asked for written interpretation from the state permitting agency. That information is provided for each state.

Do you need a state permit for scientific research? (Yes – in almost every state!)

Many states use the term “scientific collecting permit” but in fact they require a permit for all manner of research activities. Do not assume that you do not need a permit simply because the permit is titled “scientific collecting permit.” Assume that you need a permit despite the title, read the regulation, policy, or permit documents to be sure, and check with the state permitting office if in doubt.

Do you need a state permit for banding/marking? (Yes – in almost every state!)

Nearly every state requires a state permit for banding/marking. Most include these activities in the “scientific collecting” permit but some have separate permit applications.

Do you need a state permit for salvage? (Yes – in almost every state!)

Most states require state permits for salvage, though most will include authority to salvage in a scientific collecting permit if such authority is requested, even if there is a separate application form for salvage.

What is a “possession” permit? Do  you need one? Probably not. 

Generally, the state “possession” permits pertain to the possession of live birds and these permits are usually needed only if the bird will be kept in captivity beyond the time allowed in the collecting permit (usually 24-48 hours).

Federal permit first or state permit first?

No official policy exists but in practice, the states will not issue permits until a federal permit has been issued. The federal MBTA permit application states, “Your Federal permit is not valid unless you are also in compliance with State requirements. This means that if your State requires you to have a State scientific collecting permit, you must hold a valid State permit in order for your Federal permit to be valid. It is your responsibility to make sure you comply with State permit requirements.” The federal endangered species recovery permit application asks if the applicant has obtained or applied for all all required Federal, tribal, State, county, municipal or foreign government approval to conduct the research activity and if permits have not yet been obtained, asks why the permits have not been issued.”

On rare occasions, a federal permit staffer will insist on seeing a state permit first. This generally results from a misunderstanding of USFWS practice. Should this occur, please contact the Ornithological Council and we will help to get it sorted out.

State-listed threatened and endangered species

Some states have state endangered species laws. Where that is the case, we have provided the list of state-protected species. These lists (like the federal list) change periodically. Word to the wise (students!) – before you decide which species to study, check these lists and also check with the state agency. It is significantly more challenging to obtain permits (federal and/or state) to work with endangered species. If your study question can be addressed with research on a different species, that is almost certainly a better option.

Some states have separate permit applications for research involving threatened or endangered species (in addition to the federal permit for endangered or threatened species). Whenever a state permit for endangered or threatened species was available, it is included in the state summary. However, many states do not post these applications online. Do not assume, however, that the lack of a separate permit application on this website or on the state website means that it is not needed. Check with the state agency to be sure.

Species of special concern are not afforded special legal protection but be aware that permits to work on species of special concern are usually given extra scrutiny.

How many permits?

Most states use the same application form for new applications and for renewals, as well as for work involving state-listed threatened and endangered species.

For states that use different forms for renewal, or for state-listed threatened and endangered species, we have provided those forms.

Working on state property (parks, nature preserves, wildlife management areas).

These permits may or may not include authority to work on state property. Some states allow you to seek that authority at the time you apply for the research permit and others do not. We have attempted to provide that information. Contact the state permitting agency to be certain.

Advance notice to the state agency 

Even if no formal permit is needed to work on state property, you should always contact the manager of that particular state land unit before your arrival. You want to be aware of the hunting seasons, and, of course want to be sure that your activities will not interfere with the activities of that park, wildlife management area, or other state land unit, and that your activities will not adversely affect public use of the land.

Some states, particularly California, require formal, written notice. Check your permit to determine what is required.

BE SURE TO FILE ALL REQUIRED REPORTS IN A TIMELY MANNER.

Please contact the Ornithological Council for assistance with state permits or any other type of permit.

State pages

Links below will direct visitors to information about permit policies and procedures for each of the United States and associated territories.

Alabama Indiana Nebraska South Carolina
Alaska Iowa Nevada South Dakota
Arizona Kansas New Hampshire Tennessee
Arkansas Kentucky New Jersey Texas
California Louisiana New Mexico Utah
Colorado Maine New York Vermont
Connecticut Maryland North Carolina Virginia
Delaware Massachusetts North Dakota Washington
Florida Michigan Ohio West Virginia
Georgia Minnesota Oklahoma Wisconsin
Hawai’i Mississippi Oregon Wyoming
Idaho Missouri Pennsylvania
Illinois Montana Rhode Island
District of Columbia